5 questions with John Floyd, President of F&S Boatworks

Q: Everyone's talking about getting lighter and going faster. What's your feeling about changing the whole construction instead of laying up wood to lay up other materials, let's say Coosa board or some kind of other, structural foam. Do you still think the ride will be the same? Will the boat noise be different? What are your thoughts on changing the hull material from wood to another material? 

John Floyd: Well, this is a very important subject to me and I am a very firm believer in the superiority of cold molded, triple planked hulls. That's because of the number of reasons, if you have a lot of experience with composite, in particular composite foams whether it be core cell foam, PVC foam. To me there's absolutely no comparison. Of course I'm speaking from a cold molded perspective. I love finding places for composites in the hull in order to reduce weight or in some cases increase stiffness, but when it comes to the hull nothing performs like a wooden boat. As far as vibration dampening sound reduction and overall ride quality. I think it's very easy to tell when you get out there if you were to be able to step on one boat and get over to another, you would tell right away which boat was an Okoume and which boat was composite. For me the okoume is so good at absorbing vibration and cutting down on noise. There's definitely some builders out there that have gone from a traditional triple plank layup, such as we do to composite using the same cold molding process. I think the results are night and day in that boats ride the stability, the way it just drives overall, even with the sound. I mean you go down in the engine room some composite hulls are like an echo chamber. It could just be the same design, same layout as the boat they built with Okoume. I just feel very strongly about this. We have an old sign that hangs right in our office that is probably from the 1960s. If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would've given us fiberglass trees. I love the product in a lot of applications. I think that those applications are going to grow, but I don't think it has a place as a replacement for the estimate.

Q: Where would you say you would compromise to make the transition to lighter would that be at the house level, above the waterline, at the bridge level, above the covering board? Where would you say you're willing to go to reduce weight? What are your feelings on that?

John Floyd: I really think that you can get away with it above this sheer, but I can tell you this. We built boats with composite decks and with okoume decks, and we've got 3 82 foot boats going right now. I plan on building all the decks out of okoume plywood. I think they're much quieter, you'd be surprised. I've actually had a commissioner, one of our designers did a study for me this year on bulkhead, the sheer strength. And we compared a laminated one inch consuming bulkhead. To two pieces of 12 millimeter laminated fiberglass versus a one inch composite foam bulkhead, fiberglass, and the sheer strength and specifically weight. I thought there'd be a tremendous weight savings, and there's not, there's a waste savings, but it's very minimal. Some of that has to do with the bleeder holes in the foam. But the sheer strength is very similar as are the weights. For me, given the vibration and sound dampening qualities of the Okoume, I just didn't see a big advantage to going with composite. Again, I haven't looked at all the composites. I haven't compared coosa, VenaSeal and all the various foams. This was simply a course of information versus okoume, I just think it speaks to the superiority of the plywood.

Q: Can you build a boat that's too light?

John Floyd: I think that you absolutely can. It's something that people don't spend enough time thinking about. Everybody is so focused on, let's make this as light as possible. Guess what? The lighter it is, the easier it is for rough conditions to toss you around. We all know that there are plenty of boats that you see out there in the rip. Boats that are out there look like they're going to capsize. They are so lightweight. It looks top heavy.  Looks like a groundswell is going to tip the boat over. That instability  due to the lightweight of the boat, has so many other impacts. So many other aspects of the ride. The boat is going to lift off the water a lot easier at a wide open throttle. Again in rougher conditions, it's going to be so much easier to get tossed around whether you're gyro-stabilized or not. If it doesn't have the mass, it's not going to be able to push through to maintain stability. People seem to totally lose sight of that. We've all seen center console boats out there that can go 80, 90 miles an hour when it's flat calm. But if a squall comes in and  catches them on the way back, sometimes I worry if they're gonna make it in, but no matter what they're talking in behind one bus. I do think we need to focus a lot more on that because there really is a point of diminishing returns, what is it! I'm not sure. We're always trying to find that balance. Performance, whether it be speed and ride, but you can absolutely go to light.

Q: You mentioned gyros earlier, are all your boats being produced with gyros or are there still clients choosing not the pyjamas on the boats?

John Floyd: We haven't built a boat without a sea keeper gyro in quite a long time. In a lot of cases, people might say that it's oh, well, you know, they're simply on there for resale. And that is still the case. Certainly when people are out there shopping for boats, one of the first things they ask is CK for a gyro. They've just gotten so used to that, that stabilization. Every boat has a different role reduction, right? Based on the number of gyros or the Newton meters per second the gyros generate. But even I'd say in boats with low new meters per second unit where the roll reduction isn't that great it becomes like a placebo effect where they feel like, oh, well I have a gyro on, so I'm not going to get seasick on a boat. I'm pretty fortunate to be able to fish on our 78 special situation where we've got two 16,000 Newt meter per second units for sixteens. The stabilization is something ridiculous. Like 96, 97%. I can tell you, the side to side motion is almost non-existent. I'd say for our clientele, it's just that much more important. They have limited time to be on the water. The last thing you want to do is get out there and get sea sick. So if you're gonna build a new boat, you put all this money in, I think it makes sense to put it in there. Even if you're just going to do it for resale value, it is certainly going to help move the unit down the road.

Q; When you look at for example an older Viking it looks really tall. Even if you look at the spare situation, which is a bigger F&S boat, they do have bigger engines and would have no choice, but to make it taller. Do you achieve this low profile, sleek, modern look  intentionally? And if so, how do you create that? What makes that look so low profile, sleek and modern?

John Floyd: I think the way you achieve it is primarily with curves and sweep. You need to kind of look at all your leading edges on the boat and not leave things too squared off anything that's to squared off is going to appear taller. If you create a nice rounded edge and you sweep it back further, the boat's going to appear lower. Even though in reality it's the same height it's going to appear like a lower profile. like its riding closer to the water. It's really more of an illusion than anything because the no available height inside is not changed. But it's just amazing what you can do by adding curves to all your surfaces curving your wind, your glass on the side of the house and sweeping those lines back further that you can really achieve a look. That's more like a Ferrari sports car. Which is what we're always trying to achieve. As people say, it looks fast, standing still. I think that's the primary way that we do it. Where all this starts is in the drawing room when you're designing the boat itself. I really love a lot of shape, a lot of curve at the front of the house. I want the bridge to follow that same line and I want to have a big sweep come back quite a bit because to me it's a sexier look, it looks sleeker. It looks more aerodynamic. I think that that all plays into the illusion of looking lower than it actually is.

Listen to the full conversation here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/state-of-sportfishing-by-billfish-group/id1360912840 

Leonard Chapman